Private sector investments needed for UN development goals: Lajcak

Jun 11, 2018 0

By Arul Louis

United Nations– UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak has called for mobilising investments from the private sector to finance the world organisation’s development goals because government aid from developed countries alone cannot be expected to fund them.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by UN members in 2015 require $5 trillion to $7 trillion annually and to achieve this “bigger and better partnerships with the private sector” is crucial, Lajcak said at a high-level meeting on Financing for SDGs on Monday.

“We need to try new means and mechanisms – from blended financing to domestic resource mobilisation,” he said, adding that not enough was being done to achieve this.

Lajcak cited a study by the consulting company, Deloitte, that found that while 92 per cent of business executives supported the SDGs, only 17 per cent of them have any plans or policies for it.

“We need to sell the SDGs” by showing how they could benefit everyone, he said. “We cannot just put our hands out – and expect the investments to come.”

Taking up just climate change requirements, he said: “Developed countries have committed to come up with $100 billion per year, by 2020, to ensure developing countries can meet their climate-related needs. But, so far, nothing close to this has been raised.” (IANS)

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India, Netherlands agree to boost trade, cooperate across multiple sectors

May 24, 2018 0

New Delhi– India and The Netherlands on Thursday agreed to boost bilateral trade and investment and strengthen cooperation across multiple sectors, including agriculture and food processing, water management and science and technology, following a bilateral summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte.

Jointly addressing the media with Rutte after attending an India-Netherlands CEOs Round Table that followed the bilateral summit, Modi said that hundreds of Dutch companies have been operating in India for many years now.

“The Netherlands is the fifth largest source of the total foreign direct investment made in India till now,” he said.

“And in recent times, it has even risen to become the third largest source.”

Modi said that in the same way The Netherlands is a very attractive investment destination for Indian companies.

According to figures released by the External Affairs Ministry, India and The Netherlands have a bilateral trade of $7.621 billion (April 2017-Feb 2018).

Stating that the interaction with the CEOs of the two countries was very productive, the Indian Prime Minister said: “I am happy that the business community of The Netherlands is enthusiastic about the new opportunities arising in India. I have assured them of my strong commitment to the economic reforms.”

On his part, Rutte said that ties between India and The Netherlands have become very close both on the economic and the political sides.

“Many Indian companies, which are active in The Netherlands, are helping us to build a more successful and more resilient society,” he stated.

According to a joint statement issued following the summit, Modi and Rutte acknowledged the role of the private sector in boosting trade and investment relations and underlined the opportunities for intensive Indo-Dutch collaborations under India’s flagship initiatives such as Make in India and StartUp India.

“Highlighting the role of youth in enhancing future collaboration in innovation and startups, the leaders welcomed the launch of the StartUpLink initiative by Invest India and the Netherlands Embassy in Delhi,” the statement said.

In his address, Modi said that agriculture and food processing hold special significance for India as these are related to the country’s food security.

“At the same, the target of doubling the income of Indian farmers is also of great significance,” he said.

Stating that The Netherlands have great experience in these areas, he expressed happiness that the Indo-Dutch Centre of Excellence on vegetables has started functioning in Baramati, Maharashtra.

“We are working on setting up more such centres,” Modi stated.

Highlighting The Netherlands’ role in urban development in India, he said water management projects in Delhi and Vadodara were progressing well.

The joint statement said that innovation, technology and governance being key-ingredients in Indo-Dutch water cooperation, the respective institutions of the two countries have joined hands in several projects including a waste2wealth approach to solid waste and waste water in the Hindon Basin, in assisting leather industries in Kanpur and Unnao to adopt eco-friendly technologies, and in conservation of water through efficient agriculture practices in the sugarcane industry of Uttar Pradesh.

“Both sides agreed to intensify their resolve to enhance cooperation under the aegis of the MoU (memorandum of understanding) in the field of water management signed in June 2017 with focus on the Clean Ganga campaign,” it stated.

Modi also said that Indo-Dutch cooperation in science and technology has completed 10 years and expressed confidence that this will be further strengthened when The Netherlands will participate as the partner country in the Tech Summit to be held in India in 2019.

Following Thursday’s summit, the Dutch Prime Minister also signed the framework agreement of the India-initiated International Solar Alliance (ISA) in the presence of Modi.

Launched by Modi and then French President Francois Hollande at the Paris climate summit in 2015, the ISA was conceived as a coalition of solar resource-rich countries to address their special energy needs and provide a platform to collaborate on dealing with the identified gaps through a common, agreed approach.

It is open to all 121 prospective member countries falling between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

Modi said that the benefits of technology, experience and mastery The Netherlands has acquired on solar energy should be shared with the whole world.

According to the joint statement, the two leaders also reiterated their strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

“They deplored the violence caused by Al Qaeda, Daesh/ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammed, HizbulMujahideen, Lashkar-e-Tayabba, and their affiliates as well as terrorist groups threatening peace and security in South Asia and Europe,” it stated.

Apart from Rutte signing the ISA framework, India and The Netherlands also signed a wide range of agreements and initiatives across different sectors like knowledge institutions, water, agrifood and horticulture, hi-tech, IT and space, life sciences and health, smart cities, business, and sustainability. (IANS)

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India-Russia ties will continue to scale newer heights: Modi

May 21, 2018 0

Sochi (Russia)–  Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that ties between India and Russia will continue to scale newer heights following an informal summit he held with Russian President Vladimir Putin here.

“Extremely productive discussions with President Putin,” Modi tweeted.

“We reviewed the complete range of India-Russia relations as well as other global subjects,” he said.

“Friendship between India and Russia has stood the test of time. Our ties will continue to scale newer heights in the coming years.”

Earlier, Modi said that his informal summit with Putin will take bilateral ties to a new level.

“I am happy that today I got the opportunity to be a guest of President Putin and that too in Sochi,” Modi said after being received with a warm hug by Putin at his summer residence, Bocharev Creek, in this resort city on the Black Sea coast.

“Russia has always remained a true and fast friend of India,” he said.

“We have been regularly holding bilateral meetings but I am grateful to President Putin for inviting me for an informal summit which has taken our relationship to a new level.”

On his part, Putin said that there is no need to explain Russian-Indian relations, since these have deep roots.

“However, we have been able to create additional momentum recently. Last year, our trade saw a significant increase, adding another 17 percent since the beginning of this year,” he said.

Stating that Russia and India are proactive in their foreign policy cooperation, including within international organisations such as the UN, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and now the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Putin said: “We have established close contacts and collaboration between our defence agencies. All this is indicative of the high level of strategic relations between our countries.”

Modi arrived here earlier on Monday on a nine-hour visit for the informal summit proposed by Putin soon after his reelection as Russian President.

The Indian leader’s visit comes after National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale visited Moscow earlier this month to discuss a way out of the US sanctions on Russian firms.

The sanctions against Russian oligarchs and companies, including Rosoboronexport, the state-owned Russian weapons trading company, has raised concerns in India about a possible impact on India’s military buys from Moscow.

The withdrawal of the US from the Iran nuclear deal can be seen as another major reason for the informal summit.

Putin is expected to visit India later this year for the annual bilateral summit.

The relationship between India and Russia was elevated to that of a Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership during Putin’s visit to India in 2010.

In his remarks, Modi congratulated Putin for being reelected for the fourth time with a huge majority.

“Since 2000 when you assumed this office, you have maintained a close relationship with India,” he said.

“When you came to India for the first time after becoming President and when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister of India, you said very eloquently back then that India and Russia were ancient civilisations and vibrant democracies. People of India still remember this.”

Stating that Russia and Putin specifically hold special significance in his own political journey, Modi said in 2001, after he became Chief Minister of Gujarat, within one month he got the opportunity to visit Russia along with Vajpayee.

“In Moscow, as Chief Minister, the first world leader I met was you and in a way I got introduced to foreign relations through you,” he said.

Recalling that 18 years ago, Vajpayee and Putin sowed the seeds of the India-Russia Strategic Partnership, Modi said: “Together, both of us can today proudly say that the seeds that Atalji and you sowed have grown to a Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership. This in itself is a very big achievement.”

The Indian leader said that he too had the chance to work shoulder-to-shoulder with Putin for the last four years whether it be bilateral relations or international ties and he was “happy about it”.

Repeating Vajpayee’s words in 2000 during Putin’s visit, Modi said that being a friend of Russia for a long time, India would like to see Russia as a powerful and confident nation, which, in a multipolar world, can play a significant role.

“It is a matter of happiness for us that whether it be the SCO, in which you have played a very big role for India’s membership, the BRICS, CECA (Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement) or the (International) North-South Corridor, we have been working together in a number of mechanisms and have successfully moved forward,” the Indian Prime Minister said.

He also extended his best wishes to Russia for hosting this year’s FIFA World Cup.

Following Monday’s summit, Modi and Putin took a boat ride on the Black Sea and, according to Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, the two leaders “had plenty to discuss”.

The Sochi meeting came after a similar informal summit Modi held with Chinese President Xi Jinping in China last month. (IANS)

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India’s Forex reserve plunges by $3.21 bn

May 4, 2018 0

Mumbai– India’s foreign exchange (Forex) reserves plunged by $3.21 billion as on April 27, official data showed on Friday.

According to the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) weekly statistical supplement, the overall forex reserves declined to $420.36 billion from $423.58 billion reported for the week ended April 20.

India’s forex reserves comprise of foreign currency assets (FCAs), gold reserves, special drawing rights (SDRs) and the RBI’s position with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Segment-wise, FCAs — the largest component of the Forex reserves — decreased by $3.20 billion to $395.27 billion during the week under review.

Besides the US dollar, FCAs consist of nearly 20-30 per cent of major global currencies. It also includes investments in US Treasury bonds, bonds of other selected governments and deposits with foreign central and commercial banks.

However, the value of the country’s gold reserves increased by $26.6 million to $21.51 billion.

The SDRs’ value inched down by $14.6 million to $1.52 billion, while the country’s reserve position with the IMF slipped by $19.7 million to $2.05 billion. (IANS)

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World Bank to lend $210 mn for rural roads in Madhya Pradesh

Apr 24, 2018 0

New Delhi– The Indian government has signed a $210 million loan agreement with the World Bank to improve the rural roads in Madhya Pradesh, an official statement said on Tuesday.

“The project (Madhya Pradesh Rural Connectivity Project) will cover 10,510 km stretch of rural roads in Madhya Pradesh that fall under the Chief Minister’s Gram Sadak Yojana (CMGSY) program,” said the Finance Ministry in a statement.

The deal, signed between the Central government, Madhya Pradesh government and the World Bank, will improve the durability, resilience and safety of the gravel surfaced rural roads and enhance the capacity of the state to manage its rural roads network, it said.

Of the total roads, 10,000 km will be upgraded from existing gravel to bituminous surface roads, while 510 km of new roads will be built to the same bituminous surface standard, it added.

“Government of India is making all efforts to ensure that communities in the most remote areas across the country are connected through a road network. All weather road connectivity is crucial for economic growth, especially in the rural areas,” said Sameer Kumar Khare, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance.

Gravel surfaced roads are more prone to washouts than paved roads during flood seasons. This project will undertake resilience measures such as surface sealing of roads, embankment pitching, and balancing culverts to prevent damages caused by extreme flood events.

World Bank India Acting Country Director Hisham Abdo said: “This project will leverage resources to support innovations in road construction, improve road safety, and reduce carbon footprint in the transport sector by mainstreaming climate resilient technology in road design and construction.”

Recognizing that road safety is a critical issue, the project will also strengthen road safety management systems with the objective of reducing fatalities and serious injuries from road accidents, the statement said.

“The project will focus on improving road accident data collection and analysis at central and state levels through implementation of the Road Accident Database Management System (RADMS),” it said.

Further, the state will pilot a comprehensive Road Safety Programme in districts with most fatal and serious injuries recorded in the recent past, it added. (IANS)

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India-Poland bilateral trade crosses $3 bn in 2017: Polish envoy

Apr 23, 2018 0

Kolkata– The bilateral trade between India and Poland has crossed $ 3 billion in 2017 and the European country is exploring various sectors to improve the trade balance, the Polish envoy to India said here on Monday.

“The bilateral trade volume crossed $3 billion mark in 2017 and it is around $3.1 billion. Of the total trade, India’s export to Poland was $2.3 billion while polish export to India stood at $800 million. It has been a good achievement. Still, there is imbalance and we are trying to reduce this (imbalance) and exploring all possible sectors,” said Polish Ambassador Adam Burakowski.

However, both the countries had drawn up a blueprint for stepping up investments and identified a series of actions to raise trade from the 2014 level of $2.3 billion to $5 billion by 2018, he said, adding that India is one of the five priority countries in Responsible Development Strategy of Poland.

Possible areas for India-Polish joint venture include energy including clean technologies, mining, food and food processing, defence and R&D.

India and Poland have common goals in the energy sector as both countries rely on coal as their main source of energy and a possible platform for India-Polish cooperation includes clean coal technologies and low emission technologies, Burakowski said at an interactive session organised by Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce.

On West Bengal, he said a delegation from the state is expected in the European Economic Congress to be held at Poland’s Katowice on May 14-16 and a panel discussion would also be organised relating to the eastern European country and the eastern Indian state.

As a follow up to the Polish delegation’s participation in the Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS), his country has formed a small working group with senior officials from different ministries including energy to find out more, he added. (IANS)


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India pitches for small island nations’ development at Commonwealth summit

Apr 20, 2018 0

London– Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday pitched India’s interest for the development of small island nations at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) here.

Briefing the media here, Ruchi Ghanashyam, Secretary (West) in the Indian External Affairs Ministry, said that Modi’s participation at CHOGM conveyed India’s interest in the development of the small island nations.

On the sidelines of the summit, Modi met leaders of several of the island nations of the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

India has been increasingly reaching out to these island nations given their vulnerability in the face of climate change and their stakes in the blue economy.

“A large number of the Commonwealth nations are small island nations,” Ghanashyam said.

According to her, Modi during the two executive sessions across the day, said that India will help these nations through the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa.

Another important offer that Modi made that invoked interest was that, through the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), India will help train 30 boys and 30 girls under the age of 16 from the Commonwealth nations to undergo training in cricket.

According to Ghanashyam, the Commonwealth leaders’ discussions during the day focused on four areas: democracy, international treaty rule, attaining the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and security concerns.

Earlier on Thursday, Modi attended the opening ceremony of this year’s CHOGM, becoming the first Indian Prime Minister to attend this biannual event since 2009. (IANS)

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India focuses on Kazakhstan to boost fruit exports to Central Asia

Apr 19, 2018 0

By Saurabh Katkurwar

New Delhi– Scouting for untapped international markets in the face of dwindling fruit exports, the government has zeroed in on Kazakhstan, which is expected to open up local markets in the Central Asian region, where tropical fruits are in demand.

“The region remains covered under snow for almost six months of the year. They have (sub-tropical) pomegranate and grapes. Our embassy in Kazakhstan has informed us that tropical fruits are in much demand there. So we are going to promote Indian varieties of mango, pineapple and banana,” APEDA Chairman D.K. Singh told IANS.

“The move will open up the markets in the surrounding countries since Kazakhstan acts as distribution centre in the region,” he added.

Kazakhstan is a part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a regional grouping of former Soviet republics, including Russia. The other CIS countries are Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

While Mango varieties from across the country would would be chosen for the exports, pineapples would be preferred from Sikkim.

“We can easily air-transport banana to (Kazakhstan capital) Almaty in just three hours,” Singh said. (Last year, APEDA managed to send 250 tonnes of bananas from Kochi to Dubai through ships despite the low shelf-life of the fruit.)

According to APEDA data, global exports of fruits fell to 455,805 tonnes during April-January 2017-18 from 581,718 tonnes in the corresponding period in 2016-17.

Similarly, vegetable exports in the same period fell to 1,882,035 tonnes from 2,871,370 tonnes in 2016-17.

Currently, the export of agricultural commodities to Russia is at a “comfortable” scale but other CIS countries do not import “much” from India, Singh said.

India exported 28,755 tonnes of fruit to Russia in 2016-17 but the quantity has reduced this year as just 15,244 tonnes could be exported during April-January 2017-18. Ukraine and Belarus have also been importing Indian fruit, but the share has reduced this year.

While imports by Armenia and Azerbaijan have not been considerable this year, it has been nil for Georgia and Moldova. There has been no fruit trade with the remaining CIS countries.

This summer, APEDA will conduct market promotion activities for Indian varieties of mangoes in Kazakhstan, South Korea, China and Iran.

“Last year, we exported 60-70 tonnes of mangoes to South Korea. This year, we expect it to be 100 tonnes. We are going to take some exporters to these countries this year to promote our mangoes,” Singh said.

Iran had approved of the mango treatment facilities in India last year and subsequently imported 500 tonnes of mangoes.

Singh said the export body was facing difficulties in selling mangoes in the Chinese market due to tariff barriers and issues with translation.

“We have been trying hard to export mangoes to China. But issues like tariff barriers, and faults in translation have created obstructions. We are trying to create bonds with them. This year we have decided to enter the market with a token export of 10-25 tonnes,” he said. (IANS)

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Oli invites more Indian investment in Nepal

Apr 6, 2018 0

New Delhi– Declaring Nepal as a safe investment destination following the formation of a stable government, Prime Minister K.P. Oli on Friday invited Indian investment to participate in the development process of the Himalayan nation.

As part of efforts to attract foreign investment, the Investment Board of Nepal, chaired by Oli, is going to shortly hold a global investors summit in Kathmandu that is being jointly organised with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and which will be attended by Indian Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu, officials said here at the CII-organised India-Nepal Business Forum with Oli participating.

“Nepal is now safe for foreign investment. Any attempt to disrupt law and order will be dealt strongly,” said Oli, who arrived here on Friday on a three-day visit — his first foreign trip after he returned to power in February for a second time.

“Indian investors have invested across the globe, so why not Nepal… because in terms of geographical access and cultural similarity (with India) it is all there in Nepal,” he said.

“Nepal will need massive investment, many of its sectors are virgin territory for investment. I invite Indian companies to come and invest in Nepal,” he added.

A 54-member high-level delegation is accompanying Oli, including a number of ministers, while officials here said that both governments are currently discussing the creation of an India-Nepal Joint Business Forum.

Noting that his government enjoys three-fourths majority in Nepal’s lower house of Parliament allowing for “stability and continuity in policy”, Oli said: “My Government is committed to a liberal economy and liberal economic policies with the private sector as a key partner.

“We have no intention to reverse this trend,” he added.

Indian firms are the biggest investors in Nepal, accounting for about 40 per cent of total approved foreign direct investments (FDI) and are working in the manufacturing, services, power and tourism sectors. Some large Indian investors include ITC, Dabur, Hindustan Unilever, MTNL, State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Life Insurance Corp and Asian Paints.

In 2016-17, Nepal imported $6.1 billion worth of goods and services from India and exported only a little more than $400 million worth, making for a trade deficit of over $5.7 billion.

Nepal hopes to correct this trade imbalance by attracting more Indian FDI into the country. (IANS)

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India’s Forex reserves rise by $1.82 bn

Apr 6, 2018 0

Mumbai– India’s foreign exchange (Forex) reserves increased by $1.82 billion as on March 30, official data showed on Friday.

According to the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) weekly statistical supplement, the overall Forex reserves rose to $424.36 billion from $422.53 billion reported for the week ended March 23.

India’s Forex reserves comprise of foreign currency assets (FCAs), gold reserves, special drawing rights (SDRs) and the RBI’s position with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Segment-wise, FCAs — the largest component of the Forex reserves — increased by $1.82 billion to $399.11 billion during the week under review.

Besides the US dollar, FCAs consist of nearly 20-30 per cent of major global currencies. It also includes investments in US Treasury bonds, bonds of other selected governments and deposits with foreign central and commercial banks.

In addition, the country’s gold reserves value was stagnant at $21.61 billion.

The SDRs’ value inched up by $2.1 million to $1.54 billion, while the country’s reserve position with the IMF edged up by $2.8 million to $2.08 billion. (IANS)


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